Roden 1/48 Gladiator Mk.I
KIT #: 408
PRICE: $40 or so in 2005
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas


Developed privately as the Gloster SS.37, the Gladiator was RAF's last biplane fighter. Already rendered obsolete by newer monoplane designs even as it was being introduced, it nevertheless saw action in almost all theaters during the Second World War and with a large number of air forces, some of them on the Axis side. The RAF used it in France, Norway, Greece, Malta, the Middle East, and the brief Anglo-Iraqi War (during which the Royal Iraqi Air Force was similarly equipped). Other countries deploying the Gladiator included China, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Greece.

Though often pitted against more formidable foes during the early days of the Second World War, the Gladiator acquitted itself reasonably well in combat. South African pilot Marmaduke "Pat" Pattle was the top Gladiator ace with 15 victories with the type. In total, 747 Gladiators were built.

Gladiators of RAF 33 and 80 Squadrons assigned to the Near East saw active service during the Arab Revolt in Mandatory Palestine in the late 30’s. They were mainly deployed performing the so called “Air-Pin '' operations, where they would appear over a village before ground troops were seen approaching it, shooting at every fleeing person. Of course, apart from partisans, many civilians lost their lives during those operations.

By May 1939, with the Arab strength in the countryside compromised and a sort of “peace” being settled, the machines returned to their normal stations in Egypt, awaiting the imminent war with the Axis, a war that did not seem too far away.

Bill “Cherry” Vale, DFC & Bar, AFC, born on 3 June 1914, was a RAF fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War. He was credited with 30 enemy aircraft shot down, shared in the destruction of three others, and claimed six damaged and another two shared damaged. His 20 kills achieved while flying the Hurricane and his 10 with the Gladiator, made him the second highest scoring Hurricane and biplane pilot in the RAF, in both cases after Marmaduke "Pat" Pattle . He retired from the RAF in 1959 and was sadly killed in a road accident on 29 November 1981.He had the reputation of  a staunch pilot, displaying great courage and determination, even at the most adverse of odds. 


Roden came in 2002 with a new tool Gladiator Mk.I, supplementing it soon after with the MkII and Sea Gladiator . Those kits, while limited run in nature, were “modern” kits compared to the good but elderly Pyro/Lindberg offerings and were praised by the modeling world back then. My specific copy was the initial release Mk.I, coming in a good quality top opening box with an amazing box art of a Gladiator flying unseen over a formation of Italian Bredas. The box art was created by the beloved and much missed Valeriy Grygorenko.

For a look of what is in the box, you may read our Editor’s preview of the kit.


I started by attaching the rudder pedals onto the cockpit floor, which was subsequently trapped between the fuselage halves (the sidewalls were beforehand painted cockpit color). It was only then that the instrument panel was attached in position: some trimming of its top part and some twerking around were necessary, but in the end it locked in position. The kit provides a kind of “box” to be attached aft of the headrest, but still the area looked empty, so suitable pieces of sheet styrene filed to shape were added, with the area then looking passable under a closed canopy. Basic cockpit color was Hu78 Cockpit Green, with black instrument panel, grip, throttle box, gunsight base and some sidewall details. The seat received seat belts from masking tape. The instrument decals disintegrated upon trying to affix them, so the instrument panel was dry-brushed with silver, with a couple of red “knobs” done with a fine brush. looking acceptable.
The 3-piece cowling was next assembled, followed by engine construction. Following Tom Cleaver’s advice in his 
Mk.I build review, the 18 separate mini exhausts were attached only after the engine fitted into the cowling. The Bristol Mercury features three prominent triangular frames symmetrically placed, seemingly connecting the crankcase with the cowling: they were not represented by the kit and they were fabricated from pieces of stretched sprue. The engine was painted black, then heavily dry brushed with silver. The exhausts, together with the cowling lip area were painted burned metal, whereas the cowling innards were painted steel.

Returning to the basic model, I attached the lower wings, horizontal stabilizers, rudder, cockpit entry hatches (in “closed” position), the elevators (slightly drooped for more “dynamic” looks) and the underwing gun pods. The main legs were next attached, followed by the drum brake housings (at a slight negative camber, as is their natural posture). By consulting net pics, brake lines were added from pieces of stretched sprue. The basic model was then filled (not too much really, as fit was more or less good) and sanded smooth.

In order to facilitate the quite extensive rigging, I pre-drilled holes at all corresponding areas, with the very good rigging diagram provided by the instructions helping a lot. Upon finishing the pre-drill session, I attached all interplane struts, then quickly attached the top wing which, after some adjustments to the strut angles, rested nicely in position. The main wings were then rigged, using thin stretched sprue and a lot of patience! The two inter-bracing rods that connect the front and rear main rigging wires were also represented. After deeming the rigging passable, I carefully took the Gladiator to the paint shop!


The whole model was coated with Hu11 Silver, including the wheel covers and cowling (the latter had its front collector ring masked beforehand). Apart from paying some attention in order not to miss any hidden spot, painting of the Gladiator was a breeze!

Moving onto decals, I used the kit supplied ones, in order to represent Bill Vale’s K8036 machine, as it stood in Ramleh, Palestine during 1939. Roden decals looked perfectly registered and thin, however upon being submerged into water some shattering took place. Thankfully, shattering was not too intense, so I managed to more or less affix them into place. A coat of Future sealed them.


The main wheels were tad filed to look “weighted”. After having their tires painted black, they were attached, followed by the already silver-painted covers. The rear wheel strut was also attached, with the small tail wheel trapped in between. The engine was then carefully installed, followed by the exhausts, which were painted burned metal (their openings had beforehand been drilled out). Both engine and exhaust installation are not too precise, with some extra care being necessary there.

I then went to finalize the cockpit by adding the seat, stick (“pushed” tad forward to match the “drooped” elevators), the compass just in front of the stick and the distinctive “four-pod” gun sight at the front. The compass's top face was highlighted with a fine silver pen and a piece of acetate was affixed onto the gunsight, in order to represent its glass. The two fuselage guns were painted gunmetal and carefully secured in position inside the cockpit, with their barrels protruding outside. Finally, moving to the rear, I applied the tail rigging, followed by the mini antenna mast in the correct fin position for my version.

Regarding the wooden prop, after reading some very interesting net discussions, I came to the conclusion that the (very expensive and difficult to construct) ) wooden Gladiator props were covered with a protective “glove” which was then doped in order to be tightened and sealed. Whereas the glove was typically pre-colored in gray, in a number of cases the prop was doped in anti glare black, whereas the front blade faces were doped with silver from the ⅔ of the blade length outwards. This is what I went for, after filling and sanding the prominent sink marks at the blades rear faces towards their bases. After painting the spinner also silver, the prop was affixed in position.

Not too much weathering was performed, mainly consisting of dirtying the undersides and tires and applying some oil staining aft of the cowling bottom, all done with dark brown and black dry pastels. A satin coat gave the bird its final finish.
The transparencies had their well defined frames hand painted and attached in position, with the windscreen needing some trimming, in order to fit. White glue took care of the mini gaps. The wing tip lights were sanded off and replaced with tiny pieces of clear styrene, accordingly painted with silver body red and green clear paints at their tips. The ventral light was also represented with a blob of clear red. The correct aerial for my version was replicated by a piece of stretched sprue that ran from the fin mast towards the cockpit, then split towards both sides of the top wing,  before calling the pe-war Gladiator done!


This is a very good kit of an important and beautiful plane. It is thoroughly researched,  well molded, with good details and nice fabric representation - a key area for the Gladiator. Instructions are nice and clear, whereas the decals, though superb when new, were barely usable after 20 years, something to be expected.

Though limited-run, meaning parts needing some extra cleaning, fit was almost “mainstream” and the construction straightforward. Out of the box a very respectable model can occur. If you wish to go aftermarket in order to boost the kit’s looks and correct its (not many, truth be told) shortfalls, you will not be disappointed, as a lot of good looking stuff seems to exist.

Due to its short run nature and the amount of rigging required, the kit is not suitable for beginners, but an average modeler will not have too challenging times when tackling it. It can still be found today at more or less all its versions and at very sensible prices. If you have one or come across one, do not hesitate to tackle it: a gorgeous model will surely emerge!

This build is dedicated to the beloved and much missed Valeriy Grygorenko.

Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

20 September 2022

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